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Shooting from a new perspective (2)

By Sun Li (China Daily)

17:00, August 01, 2012

Shenzhou II, which depicts astronauts on a manned space mission, broadens the boundary of war films.

"For people around and above the age of 40, August First's old films are still a hot topic."

Liu Jianwei, vice-president of the studio, acknowledges the studio is encountering a challenge replicating its erstwhile cinematic glory.

"The thing is, almost every monumental event of the various war periods in which the PLA were involved, has been covered in previous decades," Liu says.

"Even though you know a film is a remake of a classic, it has to have some changes to avoid being a cheesy repetition and win over audiences.

"In the mid-1990s, Hollywood blockbusters marched into domestic cinemas and stole the spotlight," Liu continues.

"Foreign war movies that feature more realistic and grandiose combat scenes and often bring a human touch to the harshness of war have influenced audiences' taste for military movies."

"The war film as a genre is not as popular as it used to be. Also competing for viewers' attention these days are other categories of films such as comedies and costume dramas," Liu adds.

As a PLA-backed studio, August First has advantages when it comes to shooting war films.

In the early 1990s, to chronicle the War of Liberation (1946-49), the studio produced a three-part film that is 25 hours and 10 minutes long, in total. More than 3 million PLA soldiers participated in the filming of the epic.

To shoot Sky Fighters (2011), a Top Gun-style film featuring a state-of-the-art jet battle, the studio borrowed real J-10 fighters.

"But to revive war films, the essential thing is to make changes," Liu says, noting one stereotype of classic war films is that the heroes are always flawless, while the villains are stereotypes.

"If the studio does not abandon this outdated narrative and characterization, its films will be ignored," Liu says.

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